Welcome to the latest blog post from CC: PDX, your Portland copywriting experts. Terri Wangle, CC:PDX member and owner of Spotlight Ink, recently reported about the “tipping point of brand awareness” with social media expert Cara Chace. Now Terri is back with some practical social media tips for businesses.
Tip #1: Be aware. Be kind. Keep your customer in mind.
While you focus on the big and little details of running an organization, your clients don’t care about that minutia. It seems brutal, but think about your customers’ view. They care about what you can do for them—and they want to see that customer focus in your content. (And honestly, don’t you have the same thoughts when you’re the customer?)
The saying above is cheesy, but if you can develop a thoughtful mindset for your clients, you’ll keep your content relevant and reduce the chance that you’ll inadvertently irritate customers with the wrong words.
Tip #2: Evaluate your word choice
Follow this rule of thumb for short Facebook posts or a long blog: Write first. Edit second. This strategy will reduce the chances of overthinking and inflicting writer’s block. Plus, you can evaluate word choice when editing, making your content work for you—not against you. Ann Handley explains this “word power” in her book, Everybody Writes:
“Embrace the idea (as I said in the Introduction) that your words are your Web currency: they are a proxy, a stand-in for the important things you want to convey to your customers, and the world. I want your readers and followers and audience to enjoy your words more, and I want you to maybe even feel a little proud of them. But getting to that point requires—in all of us—a crucial shift: viewing the words we use as an important piece of who we (and our companies) are online.”
Some helpful ideas for evaluating your word choice:
1) Remember: verbs demonstrate value by illustrating what will happen when a person interacts with your company. Verbs generate buy-in and set clear client expectations, because people will understand how you’re solving a problem or filling a need.
2) Remember: adjectives can alienate, because they often carry subjective qualities that can confuse or even irritate readers who might hold a different perspective than you. Maintain your focus on the customer, and pick adjectives that would be interesting/informative and obvious if that client were physically interacting with your product, talking with your crew, calling you on the phone, etc. Again, it goes back to verbs; then, the adjectives will naturally fit into the writing because they are reflecting the client’s real perspective and experience. Plus, with mindful editing, you can toss empty filler adjectives, like exceptional, great, perfect.
Tip #3: Look for unintended meaning.
Did you really want to say that? Is it accurate? Is it inadvertently perverted, silly, or awkward? A final (even quick!) review will help you avoid unintended embarrassing moments, like when Starbucks muddled the proofing process and used the words “Klamath Falls” next to an icon of Multnomah Falls. (LINK: http://www.oregonlive.com/trending/2016/11/starbucks_flubs_oregon-themed.html)
In the best cases, the misstep makes people laugh or groan (like Starbucks). In the worst case, an uninformed word choice harms client relationships or even tarnishes the company’s brand. Like writer and Author Bill Walsh explains, “A puerile sense of humor can be a big asset in the word business. I call it the Beavis and Butthead factor. (Heh-heh—he said “big asset”!) … You should know why stiff and come were to be avoided in Clinton impeachment stories. These things can be subtle. … .”
Mr. Walsh included this reminder in his book, Lapsing Into A Comma. He titled the section “Dirty Mind, Clean Copy,” but the concept extends to all your content. Remove unwanted double entendres. Edit distorted content for clarity. And, unlike Starbucks, double check details.
Need help crafting content? Contact a member of the CC:PDX.